U.S. Navy underwater archeologists, in conjunction with Indonesian Navy divers, have assessed in an interim report that the wrecked vessel surveyed in the Java Sea in June is "consistent with the identification" of the World War II wreck of the cruiser USS Houston (CA 30), and that divers documented conclusive evidence of a pattern of unauthorized disturbance of the gravesite.
"We're grateful for the support of our Indonesian partners in determining the condition of the USS Houston," said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "In my discussions with our Indonesian navy partners, they share our sense of obligation to protect this and other gravesites."
"Surveying the site, of course, was only the first step in partnering to respect those Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms and security that we richly enjoy today," he added.
U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) One Company 1-5, along with personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the wreck during a joint training evolution. Over the course of 19 dive excursions, both ends of the wrecked vessel were marked with buoys and the exposed port side, as well as the deck, was documented using video recording.
After analyzing all of the data, an assessment from the Naval History and Heritage Command concluded that all of the recorded data is consistent with the identification of the wrecked vessel as the former USS Houston.
The site of the sunken ship, while a popular recreational dive site, is the final resting place of approximately 700 Sailors and Marines.
The assessment noted signs that unknown persons removed hull rivets and a metal plate from the ship. U.S. and Indonesian representatives are currently coordinating to develop measures to prevent continued disturbance of the site.
The joint team later conducted a wreath-laying ceremony presided over by the Deputy Chief of Mission to Indonesia, Kristen Bauer, memorializing the loss.